Remember how Darwin’s tree of life ended up as a sort of circular thingy, like Girl Scouts of various ages holding hands in a circle and singing kumbaya on the lakeshore?
Anyway, the latest is, human evolution is better imaged as a braid than a tree? (The Girl Scouts win again, it seems.)
Yes, further to “New Scientist offering to explain how swearing made us human,” and John Hawks’s free (and gotta-be-more-credible) chapter on human evolution, we now hear from Clive Finlayson, Gibraltar Museum director on the Dmanisi find ,
I have been advocating that the morphological differences observed within fossils typically ascribed to Homo sapiens (the so-called modern humans) and the Neanderthals fall within the variation observable in a single species.
Good call. It’s looking more that way all the time.
Then he goes on to ask the dread question:
If the fossils of 1.8 or so million years ago and those of the more recent Neanderthal-modern human era were all part of a single, morphologically diverse, species with a wide geographical range, what is there to suggest that it would have been any different in the intervening periods?
The entire period would look a lot like the modern human world, which is pretty diverse actually. (Granted, more people alive today possibly permits more extreme outliers, but only up to a point.)
And the braid?
Some time ago we replaced a linear view of our evolution by one represented by a branching tree. It is now time to replace it with that of an interwoven plexus of genetic lineages that branch out and fuse once again with the passage of time.
This means, of course, that we must abandon, once and for all, views of modern human superiority over archaic (ancient) humans. The terms “archaic” and “modern” lose all meaning as do concepts of modern human replacement of all other lineages.
Eliminating the ascent of man and separate species of humans annihilating each other accords well with evidence, but it is a story other than Darwin’s. Once top people realize that, its telling may get riskier.